Virgin Jackson is a ranger in one of the world’s last natural reserves — Birrimun Park in Australia. Her troubles begin when she witnesses a murder in the park after hours and the incompetent police detective doesn’t believe her story. Moreover, the higher ups partner her with an US Marshall who’s investigating drug trafficking inside the park, and she keeps seeing an imaginary eagle that shows up to warn her of impending danger.
I have mixed feelings about this book. First off, I requested an ARC of Peacemaker because the setting and genre intrigued me: a futuristic urban dystopia mixed with a western. Just look at that cover. However it took me forever to finish the book because the beginning is just too boring. Yes, there’s the murder and everything, but it didn’t immediately spark my interest; I had to force myself to read a couple of chapters every evening to get through it. Only after one third, when we got a bit into the story and the characters, the book finally became interesting.
The main problem for me was the awfully dry prose. From the stilted grammar and poorly constructed sentences, I would have guessed that this was a debut novel. The setting was described too vaguely and never gave me the impression of being inside the story, so to speak. It reads like someone’s first draft rather than a finished novel, and that’s a pity because the ideas behind the story are good. But the story itself feels like a sequence of events strung together haphazardly, in which things happen just because they’re needed to advance the plot. Why didn’t Virgin read her father’s journal years ago, anyway? It makes no sense and doesn’t fit with what we know of her character.
Virgin herself was an okay protagonist. I liked her attitude and her friendship with Caro and her relationship with her stripper fuckbuddy-slash-boyfriend. But it felt as if the book was trying too hard to tell me how badass Virgin was (she has a gun! she shoots people!) instead of developing her character. Virgin is not a flat character, but she’s not three-dimensional either — two and a half dimensions, perhaps. There was a wide array of secondary characters; maybe too many, because none of them felt too memorable. Having two characters called Caro and Corah in the same scene is a recipe for disaster. Marshall Sixkiller, with his hat and (fake?) cowboy drawl, tries too hard to be tall dark and mysterious. And urgh, Totes. Totes was a creep and I wish other characters stopped making excuses for it. “Totes is a creep but he’s okay really!” “Good thing Totes bugged your flat without your knowledge or you wouldn’t have an alibi!” Just. No.
Overall, while I get the appeal for fans of thrillers and gritty urban scenarios, the whole book was underwhelming. It was the literary equivalent to a low-budget tv show pilot, trying to cram too many things into the first hour to make you tune in again next week. Because of course there are plenty of things left unexplained, from the imaginary eagle Aquila to someone saying “Virgin, you need to know…” and being dramatically interrupted before they’re able to finish. This book is definitely not a standalone, the end has very little resolution and a big To Be Continued, and that’s one of my pet peeves. I might pick up the sequel, I’m just not feeling like “omg this was so good I need the next book now”.